New report outlines behaviour change needed for Net Zero

14th October 2019

Imperial College London published a new report last week titled ‘Behaviour change, public engagement and Net Zero’. The report outlines the potential for people to make choices that can contribute to reducing emissions.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) appointed Imperial College London to undertake the research, but it is an independent report and the Committee does not agree with all of the findings. The report sets out a range of policy interventions that could encourage changes across surface transport, aviation, heating and diet change. It helped to inform the Committee’s report on Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming report published in May 2019.

Key findings:
  • If the public are to become engaged with the climate challenge and contribute to achieving net-zero emissions then there needs to be new and more compelling narrative to get them on board.
  • Government must enable consumers to take specific concrete actions that deliver large emissions reductions.
  • Changes don’t need to be expensive and can deliver large co-benefits, to health and beyond, but they are unlikely to happen rapidly unless obstacles are removed i.e. consumer choice and markets must change.
  • Consumers should have access to attractive and affordable products and services.
  • Data and ICT (information and communications technology) have  emerged as an important asset and tool for enabling consumers to make informed decisions about technology adoption (electric cars and heating), for providing consumers with product information and feedback on purchasing habits (diet) and for redesigning financial incentives for shifts in demand (diet and aviation) and change at the system level (diet). This must be utilised.
The report also makes a series of recommendations on how to shift to a sustainable diet, how to improve the energy efficiency of domestic heating and how to reduce the emissions from travel. Summaries of the recommendations for each are below.

Shifting to sustainable diets - Summary of recommendations
Reducing food waste
• Give all UK households access to weekly collection of food waste.
• Require products to have only one date label to reduce confusion over food safety.
• Regulation to discourage excessive portion sizing and improve portion size choice for meals eaten outside the home (co-benefits for health from reduced calorie over-consumption).
Public sector catering
• Mandate that all public-sector catering menus include at least one fully plant-based (vegan) option that is available to everyone every day to improve access to lower-impact foods.
• Fund training in plant-based cooking to address skills gaps and provide financial support for equipping kitchen facilities for additional plant-based food preparation where needed.
New product development: plant-based analogues and blended products
• Fund research and development (R&D) in food technology for plant-based meat and dairy replacements (analogues) and plant-animal blended products with a focus on sustainability, health and consumer appeal. This could accelerate a ‘new protein economy’ for the UK and has scope for reducing dietary emissions globally. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund could be suitable for pursuing such a large, fast-growing and sustainable global market.
Food labelling and feedback on shopping habits
Nutritional labelling
• Lower-impact foods strongly tend be lower in saturated fats and cholesterol. Introduce mandatory, standardised ‘traffic light’ nutrition labels on retailed food to replace numerous ineffective voluntary schemes and permit personalised feedback on overall shopping habits.
Producer-specific environmental impact labelling
• Introduce mandatory, standardised, graphical labelling for the environmental impact of food products based on verified producer-specific data not food type. This can incentivise shifts to lower-impact consumer purchasing choices, production practices and product innovation.
Feedback on shopping habits
• Require supermarkets to provide consumers with graphical feedback on their overall shopping habits by leveraging new mandatory, standardised labelling for nutrition and environmental impact. Feedback to be benchmarked to guidelines for globally sustainable and healthy diets and provided on till receipts and on online food shopping sites.
• Require supermarkets to enable customers to share nutritional and environmental-impact labelling data with chosen third parties offering feedback on purchasing habits.
• Government to create the technical and regulatory environment needed to enable consumers to access and share their food purchasing data with third parties offering analysis and feedback services.
Financial incentives for lower-impact food production and consumption
• Apply financial incentives to high GHG-impact foods based on producer-specific data to further incentivise shifts to lower-impact production practices, product innovation and consumer purchasing choices. Price signals should leverage validated data used for mandatory environmental impact labelling (rather than food types, e.g., beef) and should be introduced after this data and labelling infrastructure is established.
• Financial incentives should be applied in the first instance through rebalancing existing EU farm subsidies post-Brexit, 69-79% of which go to support fodder and livestock production.
• Revise VAT rules on foods to remove many existing inconsistencies and reflect the goals of healthy and sustainable diets.
• New Government support (e.g., finance and knowledge-sharing) for farmers to shift from livestock to horticulture, where land is suitable, or to other land use options.
Domestic heating - Summary of recommendations

Reduce up-front costs for smart Heat Pump (HP) and Hybrid Heat Pumps (HHPs)
 • Extend the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for HP/HHPs beyond 2021, rebalance towards a capital grant, and stipulate smart controls as a requirement. (The RHI for heat pumps in smart hybrid systems can taper off as installation costs come down and the market value of flexibility increases).
• Reduce VAT on smart HP/HHP installations (including boiler and smart controls) in all installations of hybrid retrofit, not just new-build or energy efficient homes as eligibility presently requires.
• Mandate standards for smart appliances to avoid the need for additional appliance purchases due to interoperability issues (air source heat pumps and boilers are not generally ready for smart digital control).
Reduce running costs for smart Heat Pump (HP) and Hybrid Heat Pumps (HHPs)
Reduce electricity costs
• Introduce a ‘Flexibility First’ approach in new regulation to improve access to the full market value of flexibility in household electricity demand (‘demand response’/DR) and better support the emergence of new cost-saving DR services.
• Reduce electricity prices by rebalancing the tax and regulatory costs applied to consumer energy bills which currently fall much more heavily on increasingly low-carbon electricity (17.45%) than fossil fuel gas (1.8%).
Support load-shifting technologies to reduce running costs through demand response
• Pre-heating: Financial assistance for home insulation retrofits via low-interest loans/Variable Council Tax/Green Mortgage proposals.
• Storage: Extend the reduced 5% or zero VAT level to all thermal and electrical storage installations (as for newbuild housing). Storage options can present fewer barriers to adoption than building fabric insulation in terms of disruption and cost of installation.
Enable informed adoption decisions for heating and insulation technologies
• Implement a centrally-administered system of accreditation for smart HP/HHP suppliers and installers and funding for regional centres of excellence to maintain high levels of outcomes and consumer trust.
• Retrofit public buildings, open to the public, with low-carbon heating, insulation and storage technologies to raise awareness and trust to encourage uptake.
• Provide funding for showrooms on high streets to introduce consumers to smart HP/HHPs and other low-carbon smart heating, storage and insulation solutions.
• Require and support installers to provide independently-verified ex-post evaluations of the real-world performance of smart HP/HHP technology to increase consumer trust and generate real-world data for policy development.
• Support the development of a publicly-accessible online database featuring case studies of the real-world performance, running costs and customer satisfaction with smart heat pumps/HHP and associated storage, insulation, smart controls and energy service offerings. This could help to normalise, and increase trust in, unfamiliar technologies.
• Support the development (finance, regulation and open data) of a digital comparison tool offering tailored cost projections (up-front costs, running costs and payback periods) and market comparisons of smart HPs combined with smart time-of-use tariffs/DR services and other behind-the-meter low-carbon technologies such as storage, insulation and solar PV.
• Support the development of a data portability solution for consumers to share their smart meter data with third party digital comparison tools and for ex-post assessments.
Surface transport and aviation - Summary of recommendations

Cycling and e-bikes
• Further cycling infrastructure investment for safer cycling and secure cycle parking.
• Introduce grants for e-bikes.
Bus and rail
• Invite and support new budget-priced intercity rail services (such as that planned for London to Edinburgh in 2021 with £25 fares) to encourage modal shift from cars and planes.
• Require introduction of reduced-price season tickets/passes for part-time workers.
• Reopen disused rail lines and withdrawn bus services where demand exists, or could develop, to reduce car dependency and ownership.
• Finance a programme of investment across the whole of rail and bus networks.
Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Charging infrastructure
• Introduce measures to improve interoperability, reliability and smart grid compatibility.
• Raise awareness among fleet operators of incentives, lifetime costs and additional benefits of EV adoption. Company/fleet purchases account for over half of new car sales and have good potential for growing the second-hand EV market to make EVs more accessible.
• Increase funding for procurement of fully electric EVs for Government and Local Authority car fleets. This will lead by example, deliver whole-life cost savings and air quality benefits.
• Extra support for growing car-club EV fleets which reduce private car ownership and use.
Reduce up-front costs
• Reinstate the OLEV grant to the previous level but exclude high-end EV models.
• Lower or remove VAT on new EV sales (as in Norway and Iceland).
Reduce Running costs
• Introduce a ‘Flexibility First’ approach in new regulation which would improve access to the full market value of flexibility in household electricity demand and support the development of new demand response (DR) services for cheaper smart-charging of EVs.
Enable informed adoption of EVs, smart meters and time-of-use tariffs
• Raise awareness (e.g., via smart metering awareness campaign) of the range of benefits of smart EV-charging (bill savings, system efficiency and supporting renewable energy) and of the need to have a smart meter to give access to new products and services for flexibility.
• Improve the regulatory context for third parties to develop innovative digital comparison tools (DCTs) to communicate the lower EV-charging costs and payback periods possible when combined with smart tariffs, other DR services and/or solar PV.
• Support the development of a solution for consumers to share (or ‘port’) their smart meter data with chosen third-party consumer services supporting adoption decisions.
Aviation demand
Leisure travel
• Introduce an escalating Air Miles Levy to discourage excessive flying by the 15% of the UK population estimated to be responsible for 70% of flights. Unlike a fuel tax, this would provide strong price signals for frequent flyers without raising prices for people taking an annual holiday. It would also encourage shifting from long-haul to short-haul leisure destinations while 3 or 4-year cycles would allow travellers greater flexibility for long-haul. The levy should also factor in the much larger emissions for Business and First Class tickets.
• Introduce regulation to ban frequent flyer reward schemes that stimulate demand.
• Raise awareness and encourage more responsible flying by mandating that all marketing of flights show emissions information expressed in terms that are meaningful to consumers.
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